The women behind Father’s Day
Father's Day celebrations are closely intertwined with the efforts of two women in the United States. The day was first observed to pay homage to hundreds of men who died in a mining accident on July 5, 1908, in West Virginia. Grace Golden Clayton, the daughter of a minister, proposed the idea of a one-time memorial service to honour fathers who lost their lives in the accident.
This observance did not become an annual event anytime soon and was not widely promoted. On the other hand, Mother's Day was officially recognised in 1914. Men associated these celebrations with femininity. Observing a day to celebrate fatherhood seemed too sentimental as tributes were reserved for the underpaid labour of women.
Ironically, it was another young woman, Sonora Smart Dodd, who started Father's Day celebrations in honour of her father, William Jackson Smart. Dodd and her siblings were raised by their widower father. After completing her education, Dodd began advocating for the cause at a national level.
She was said to be inspired by Anna Jarvis and came up with the idea while attending a Mother's Day church service in 1909. She felt that the struggles of her father needed to be recognised and his life must be celebrated. In the span of a few months, Dodd convinced the Spokane Ministerial Association to set aside a Sunday in June to celebrate fathers. She initially proposed June 5, her father's birthday, but the ministers chose the third Sunday of June so that they could get enough time to prepare their sermons after Mother's Day in May.
The Father's Day events commenced on June 19. To mark the day, Dodd sent several presents to handicapped fathers. Boys from the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) decorated their lapels with fresh-cut roses, red for living fathers and white for the deceased. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson and his family personally observed the day. Eight years later, President Calvin Coolidge signed a resolution in favour of the celebrations, intending to establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and emphasise on the obligations of their role.
In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed an executive order stating the holiday to be celebrated on the third Sunday of June. Under President Richard Nixon, in 1972, Congress passed an act officially making Father's Day into a national holiday. Additionally, the Great Depression and World War II accelerated the promotion of these celebrations.
For her work, Dodd is fondly regarded as the mother of Father's Day. She was a well-known poet, scribe, and sculptor. She wrote and illustrated a series of children's books about the Native Americans of Spokane. She was honoured in 1948 as a bronze memorial plaque was installed at the Spokane YMCA. The Dodd family home also earned a slot on the National Register of Historic Places, USA.
The author is a freelance journalist who likes reading, planning, and scribbling. Email: email@example.com.